Thursday, May 30, 2024
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More Ways To Keep Flies Off Your Livestock

There’s more than one way to skin a cat or catch a fly. On Pasture reader Fred Forsburg was inspired to share his method of keeping flies off his cattle by the article several weeks ago on Loran Shallenberger’s Farm Hack Fly Trap. We thought you’d like to see what works for Fred. We love how he observed cattle and fly behavior to come up with a great solution!

I too have been working on a solution to our Face Fly problem and was planning to provide OnPasture with my results after some additional additional testing. But, no sense waiting…Below is what what I have done and what I have found. I am pleased to personally respond to all inquiries and seek new ideas and solutions.

This is the barrel wrap idea.

The barrel wrapped method, as interesting as it appears, would be inconvenient here due to the way our cattle move thru the pastures. We run a small herd of stockers annually on 38 acres consisting of 5 pastures ranging from 4-15 acres with no fixed lanes thus require a very portable solution as I move the water tank (100G Rubbermaid) every 2-3 days along the high tensile fence. All fields have piped water running under the fence with a spigot every 200’. With a 100’ hose I can easily attach and move the tank with the cattle as I move 2 times a day and back fence.

I consider Face Flies our main pest and capture hundreds and sometimes thousands a day,  but prior to documenting this methodology I had hoped to improve capture rates based on Face Fly attractants (e.g. carbon dioxide as in mosquitoes). In other words – how do the flies locate cattle? I have consulted with entomologists, professors and researchers at universities from NY to Florida and found that there is little to no literature on the subject! We however know they are also facultative (not obligate) blood feeders but using blood as an attractant would also draw a lot of other undesirables so that wouldn’t be a good solution.

First – Know Your Enemy

Here are a few knowns: Only the female Face Fly attacks cattle, feeding on the mucosal discharge by irritating both their eyes and muzzle. The male flies feed on plant material and dung components thus are not a concern. Face Flies are non-problematic in feed lots as the female will only lay eggs in fresh undisturbed manure.

From USDA – Face Flies are one of two most significant flies doing the greatest harm:

• The female face fly is a non-biting fly that feeds on cattle secretions (mucus) around the eyes, mouth, and nose, causing extreme annoyance!
• Studies show that a high infestation of flies (12/animal) had a 12 to 15 percent reduction in weight gain. Losses are due to a reduction of grazing and ruminating time.
• Heavy populations (>20/face) will reduce grazing time and performance – substantially!
• It is recommended that face flies be controlled when there are only 5-10 flies per animal.
• Face flies are harder to control than horn flies. – the other significant fly.
• Controlling face fly numbers is a key to reducing most pinkeye problems.
• Attaining adequate face fly control is difficult because of where the flies feed.
• The conventional method of reducing face flies is a daily forced contact with an insecticide.

Observation and Implementation:

I was removing a piece of sheet steel left on the ground from my ancient and defunct combine when I noted that the tank in the adjoining pasture was empty. I placed the steel sheet against the post next to the tank and turned on the valve. A few steers immediately started drinking and as they bobbed their heads into the tank I observed all the flies leaping off their respective heads and landing onto the steel plate – A Eureka Moment!

I headed straight for the shop and I attached a half dozen strips of that old fashioned flimsy fly ribbon to a wide board and placed it against the wire behind the tank. To my amazement It captured hundreds of flies in no time as the herd drank!

Click to check it out online. It’s also available on Amazon, but at a higher price.

That first trap was frustrating to construct with all that sticky stuff. I immediately  commenced a search for “wide” fly paper and found the same (CatchMaster) brand) fly paper utilized on the barrel in previous article. Attaching to the board I dubbed the “cartridge” as it is replaceable, was still slow, mostly trying not to stick to itself or me. It was however quite successful at capturing ~2000 flies in a day.

Happy with that success but dissatisfied with the wide but flimsy fly paper I commenced a search for an improved solution and contacted pest control companies all over the country but received not a single reply. Months passed before I discovered the actual manufacturer of the fly paper and contacted that company. I stated what I was doing & asked to speak to their Vice President of Research and Development. He immediately took my call. Even better he visited the farm the following month in April 2016 and supplied me with a variety of their products and we strategized on their usage.

The product I now use and recommend is identified by the the pest control industry as a Glue Board.  It is a commercial product used in all type of food service and other locations that require effective and persistent fly control. Glue boards are constructed of a heavier backing than the tapes, are easy to attach via staples to the cartridge and are much easier to handle as they are single sheets (12”x24” ) with a protective film you remove only as you deploy in the field.  I staple 1 or 2 glue boards to the cartridge based on perceived fly population.

Fred says, “We have only 15 stockers – This in one day! DO you see a pattern here? Seems to me the outside is better populated, not sure if that means anything however – Always trying to improve!”


The cartridge is quick and easy to exchange in the field and the glue boards have a longer life outdoors than the thin roll product. I exchange multiple times a week in heavy fly season or when they’re full. They each hold over 2000 flies. The fewer flies the less exchanges. Glue boards are rated at a month under cover and somewhat less in exposed locations. The effective result here is that by capturing mostly females, right off the cattle, you eliminate not only her but all her potential progeny thus the fly population is quickly reduced! Recovery is no doubt swift, thus traps must remain in place until cooler temperatures.’

Interested in trying this at your place? I’m using the Catchmaster 948 Glue Boards. Kathy Voth searched the Internet and found these three suppliers. If you know of other suppliers, feel free to share them.
Do It Yourself Pest Control
Wildlife Control Supplies
Oldham Chemical Company

I am working on a hopefully more advanced trap however with less urgency as I have too many competing projects. Another thing I have wanted to do is animate the trap as I have noticed whenever I move thru the pasture I am attacked by flies but do not know what species. Finally I would be pleased to hear what others have found, even speculated with regard to any cattle flies. You can email me here. Anything that proves useful I will report to the group.

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Fred Forsburg
Fred Forsburg
I was a software engineer for 33 years and escaped to do the best job I have ever had. We started with vegetables, garlic and pasture raised broilers in 2002 and finally grassfed beef in 2007. We exited markets and horticultural operations in 2015 and now raise only a small Angus herd selling direct only in Eighths or Halves, cut & frozen. Now, instead of a cookbook we installed a kitchen where we actually show how to cook!! While not many have taken us up on that offer we however offer tips and recommendations in writing as one way we know to acquire & retain customers.


  1. At my ranch cattle are not the only ones bothered by the fly population, we have horses and they are used with the cattle I picture my horse with his nose stuck to a trap! How can it be mounted so that my nosey animals don’t get themselves into trouble, even my calves have to check everything out!

  2. There is a product called ‘bird-x’. It is used to keep birds from roosting where their poop would be a problem. However, the product is essentially the same gel that is on the fly traps. It comes in a caulk tube for easy application. Get some cardboard and make your own trap boards.
    And thank you for your observations! Very helpful.

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